Friday, February 4, 2011

Neil deGrasse Tyson at UNR

"We're just going to sort of have fun with the universe for an hour," said science God Neil deGrasse Tyson as he strolled onstage to eager awaiting fans. The title projection behind him read, "The World as Seen Through the Lenses of Scientists." The crowd could not be more delighted, and chuckled with glee in response to the confident, easy-going speaker. There must have been 2,000 people at UNR last night to see Tyson. The auditorium was filled to the brim (including the "broken" seat I snagged last minute) along with three rooms of overflow who had to see Neil live-stream.

Before moving on he pointed to the little blue birdie icon at the bottom of the introduction slide. "Oh and that, to those of you who don't know, that's the Twitterverse," he whispered dramatically. Tyson walked to the computer and logged into his Twitter account. He spoke each word aloud as he typed. "Rabbits eat their own poop to regain essential nutrition they would otherwise lose....A product of stupid design."

"Let's tweet that." He clicked send and the crowd cheered. "I like to send a tweet at the start of talks so by the end we can see what we get." By the time he clicked back to the homepage 4 or 5 people had already re-tweeted it.

Tyson's look is straight out of the 90s. Light denim jeans, light brown blazer, black dress shirt and tie dotted with planets.

If there's one thing Tyson wants us to take away from the presentation, it's this: "Powerful countries invest in science. Countries that invest in science are the most powerful." Tyson had no problem hinting toward the fact that the U.S. needs to step up our scientific support. And rightfully so. The most profound part of his talk showed world 3 world maps: The first- a normal world map; The second- the countries of the world inflated or shrunk based on the number of peer-reviewed scientific papers published; and the third - The "trendline" of peer-reviewed scientific papers between the years 2000-2010. Between the second two maps, the U.S. shrinks dramatically. What's happening here?


On with the presentation -- the theme of which is the perspectives of different types of scientists-- "Scientists do see the world differently because there's so much information," said Tyson. Over the hour and a half he presented us with: the chemist's lens, planetary scientists' lens, biologist's lens', mathematician's lens, physicist's lens, science educator's lens, engineer's lens, and the astrophysicist's lens.

Here are some quotes and highlights I pulled from it:
*Disclaimer - my nerdiness is not for science. These highlights must differ greatly from those who are more scientifically impassioned.

- Scientists' faces are on money in Europe (countries that invest in science are powerful).

- When Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod in the U.S., he was accused of "thwarting the will of God."

- "That's what a cosmic perspective does. It simultaneously depresses you and uplifts you at the same time."

- After 9/11, Bush gave a speech in which he said, "Our God is the God that named the stars," which was meant to distinguish "us from them." He was wrong. In fact, 2/3 of the stars in the sky are named by Arabic cultures.

- There's all sorts of evidence of water on Mars. That's why we spend so much talking about Mars.

- It's ridiculous that "In 21st century America we have people who are afraid of the number 13!!" Example: Hotel floors.

- The gulf coast oil spill, trains collide in Los Angeles, levees break in New Orleans, bridge breaks in Minnesota, steam pipes collapse in NYC... are all examples of scientific fails, if you will, that make Neil think, "What country is this??" (U.S. needs to get its act together theme)

- Mark your calendars. You will experience your billionth second during the year you are 31 years of age. 31 years + 259 days + 1 hour + 46 minutes + 40 seconds, to be exact.

- The number one hundred billion represents: the approximate number of humans ever born; the number of stars in the milky way galaxy.

- Quintillion is the number of grains of sand on an average beach.

- Sextillion (10^21) is the number of stars in the observable universe.

-The cosmic abundances of elements in life on earth and in the universe are 1 for 1 in the following order: hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and "other."

- Tyson: "I've been looking up since age 9. When I walk out of a building the first thing I do is look up."

- Us and the Universe are made of the same stuff. That's why "I feel large when I walk out of a planetarium. Not only are you in the Universe, the Universe is in you," said Tyson.
*Side note: funny funny Tyson in Symphony of Science's video "We are all Connected"

- Tyson is very witty. When he finally finished his talk he said, "Sorry that went a little long...It's the Universe."

This flickr set has great photos from Tyson's visit, but it's not creative commons licensed so I couldn't download any of them.

2 comments:

jaynealyce said...

I just started watching "The Universe" series last night! Great post, Lis!

lissle said...

Thanks Jaynie! I hope you watched the Symphony of Science video I think you would enjoy it. It was in my head for like a week! In high school I learned I wasn't good at "science." I'm beginning to see the wonder...